Pre-Law School Programs Geared Toward URM (Under-Represented Minority) Applicants

Published February 2010, last updated October 2014

There are a number of programs intended to assist minority law school applicants as they seek to earn a spot in increasingly competitive law school classrooms. The following organizations, while not affiliated with any law school or worth any academic credits, provide a unique opportunity for URM applicants to get a jump-start on understanding the J.D. curriculum and the legal job market.

Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Career Program

SEO is a nonprofit organization founded in 1963 as one of New York City's first mentoring programs for high school students of color. Over the past four decades, SEO has expanded its programs to benefit more than 5,000 young people, helping them develop throughout high school, college, and their professional careers. SEO has offices in New York City and London, more than 50 full time staff, and programs that serve over 1,000 students and SEO alumni each year. One such program is the SEO Law Program.

What is it?

SEO Law is a 10-week career development program for 0L (pre-law) students of color. The program includes a 1-week training period, an 8-week internship at a top law firm and a 1-week law school crash course called the Law Institute. Interns spend a summer becoming familiar with the inner workings of the corporate law firm environment and networking with associates, firm partners and legal recruiting professionals. SEO has partnerships with firms in over 7 markets, including New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco/the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and Chicago. Interns are paid for all 10 weeks and salaries range from $1000 to $1500 per week.

Who can participate?

SEO Law is open to underrepresented, pre-law students of color (Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American and Asian). Candidates must be enrolled in an ABA accredited law program for the fall semester immediately following the summer internship. Students with F-1 visas or CPT/OPT work authorization are not eligible for the Law program.

What are the benefits of participation?

There's much to be gained from participating in SEO Law. Participants get an early start on the law firm recruiting process by making connections with legal recruiting contacts, associates and partners. SEO alumni frequently return to their host SEO firm or a different firm in the SEO family for 1L and 2L internships. Interns get the opportunity to meet and connect with law school peers from their own and other institutions prior to starting school in the fall. Additionally, there are over 1,000 alumni of the SEO Law program and SEO interns graduate into this elite network of legal professionals of color upon completion of the program. SEO also has a 1L judicial clerkship opportunity that is only available to alumni.

The Law Institute provides a preview of the classes that students typically encounter during 1L year. Interns complete reading assignments and sit through Socratic Method style mock lectures taught by real law school professors.

How Competitive is the SEO program?

The program is quite selective; by utilizing LSAC's CRS (Candidate Referral Service) and yearly college visits, the SEO recruits more than 600 applicants for the Corporate Law program each year. In previous years, the acceptance rate has hovered around 10-13% according to SEO officials; however, the current economic climate is likely to alter the number of spots available within the program. Additionally, the program's notoriety has permitted them to select most of their interns from the "Top 20" law schools, as dictated by U.S. News and World Report's ranking system.

How should I apply?

The application for the program can be found on SEO's website located here: All applications must be filled out online and before starting the application applicants should be sure to have:

  • A professional photograph of themselves (in digital format)
  • An updated resume
  • An idea of why they wish to participate in the program (There is a required short essay which asks for a max of 200 words.)
  • Your personal statement
  • A list of all ABA accredited law schools to which they have applied to or will apply to and the status of those applications

What is the application process?

There are 4 round deadlines:

Round 1: December 1st
Round 2: January 1st
Round 3: February 1st
Round 4: February 20th

Much like law school, acceptances to the SEO program are granted on a rolling basis, so it is advisable to apply and interview as early as possible. Once the application is submitted, applicants enter into the all-too-familiar territory of waiting.

After applying, select applicants are selected for interviews; these invites are sent out in waves via e-mail. Candidates may be interviewed via Skype (if studying abroad) and/or in-person in New York City or in select regional locations. Past regional sites have included Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC. The Admissions Committee reserves the right to interview candidates at any point after their applications is received.

After the interview, candidates are requested to submit seat deposit receipts or other proof of enrollment after finalizing enrollment plans. Additionally, SEO requests an official transcript and may sometimes request a letter of recommendation. No student can be admitted into the program without proof of enrollment in law school.

I got an interview invite; now what?

Congratulations on getting an invite to interview with SEO. Read over the interview invite email before doing anything else. Schedule and confirm your interview as soon as possible, as spots tend to fill up quickly. Candidates should also reach out to their SEO recruiter to get more information on how to prepare for the interview.

What can I expect? (Note: answers compiled from numerous threads on TLS)

SEO utilizes the stress interview method, which means that applicants must be prepared. The interview consists of two parts: the personal portion and a reading comprehension (case study) portion. The latter part of the study requires candidates to read a case study and then analyze and respond to it. The first portion of the interview is where candidates tend to need the most preparation. Previous applicants have urged candidates to review their resume, SEO's website, their partner firms, current events, and to have a basic understanding of why they might like to pursue a career in corporate law. Questions are delivered at a frighteningly quick pace, often offered out of the expected order. Listen closely to the questions asked and evaluate what the interviewers are asking for.

SEO echoes much of this advice in their preparation tips found on their website. The key during the interview is to remain calm, think through all answers, and to verbalize all thoughts clearly.

Other Questions

For further questions please visit the SEO's official FAQ:

Or contact the SEO office at:

55 Exchange Place
New York, NY 10005
(212) 979-2040

Career Program General Information:

For relevant TLS threads please see the following:



Council Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) Six-Week Pre-Law Summer Institute

In 1968, the ABA Fund for Justice and Education founded a non-profit project known as the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) in order to expand law school aid opportunities for minority and low-income students. In 1968, Congress passed the Higher Education Amendments Act, creating the Thurgood Marshall Legal Educational Opportunity Program, which they deemed be administered by CLEO.

What is it?

The CLEO program serves as an academic jump-start and law school placement service to its participants. Many students with low LSAT scores and GPAs would not be admitted to law school without the benefit of CLEO. Participants attend a six-week summer program designed to prepare them for the challenges of a law school course load. Designed to evaluate the student’s capacity for learning the law while simultaneously acclimating them to the law school process, the curriculum is taught by full-time professors and simulates the rigors of 1L. While CLEO Summer Institute participants must meet predetermined academic requirements, CLEO recognizes and considers the numerous challenges that many applicants have overcome in pursuit of their goals.

The program takes place in two locations (selected in late December) each year and work is periodically evaluated with an option to have law schools review evaluations and/or interview participants. Virtually all CLEO attendees (including those who had no law school offer at the beginning of the program) go off to law school at the end of the summer. As it celebrates its 41st year, CLEO remains the only national program that has successfully placed applicants with “less than traditional academic indicators” in more than 180 ABA-accredited law schools. Students who complete the program successfully become CLEO Fellows and may be eligible for scholarship grants once they enter law school.

Who can participate?

The program is geared toward candidates who have had significant emotional, physical, or socioeconomic disadvantages. In order to qualify, applicants must be eligible to attend an ABA-approved law school at the completion of the summer program. All applicants must also apply to at least one CLEO Member School or Supporting/Sustaining Institution found at the three links below: (Member Schools) (Supporting Schools) (Sustaining Schools)

What are the benefits of participation?

The CLEO program boasts an impressive ability to prepare its students for law school by permitting them to participate in a curriculum that successfully simulates first semester of law school classes, while also providing participants with social opportunities, seminars, and various other perks. Many consider the almost guaranteed grants provided to Cleo-Fellows to be the biggest bonus of the program. However, the academic support, bar prep, career development, and the access to an expansive alumni network are nothing to scoff at.

According to CLEO’s representatives, those who attend CLEO go on to outperform their peers, and often their own personal standards once they are in law school. Although the price may seem steep, participants contend that the program is well worth the cost, often holding immeasurable benefits for its participants.

How Competitive is the CLEO program?

The program remains relatively competitive by utilizing LSAC's CRS (Candidate Referral Service) and university visits to recruit more than 1,000 applicants each year. Though in previous years the acceptance rate has hovered around 8%, resulting in about 80 seats, the number can vary from year to year.

What are the financial logistics of the program?

The program costs $2,000 (including a required $200 seat deposit). For those students who qualify for a scholarship (parent’s combined income must be less than $40,000/year) the price tag drops significantly to $500. Transportation is not included in the tuition; food and living quarters, however, are provided.

After completing the program, participants are eligible for a grants beginning at $2,000/yr, other scholarship considerations, and full funding for bar prep classes.

How should I apply?

Applicants must apply online and mail the application confirmation e-mail, along with a personal statement, four self-addressed stamped envelopes, and a $25 application fee in the form of a money order (personal checks cannot be accepted) to:

Council on Legal Education Opportunity
740 15th Street, NW 9th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20005

When applying you will need the following items:

  • Your most recent resume
  • Your personal finances information (tax information, liabilities, assets)
  • You personal statement (not to be in excess of four pages)
  • One letters of recommendation (optional)
  • Four self addressed and stamped envelops.

Additionally, all applicants must register for the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) through the Law School Admission Council, where the CLEO code is 5096. Students applying under the low-income category must also fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which can be found at Students whose application is completed by November 27 will be part of the first group of applicants to be considered for the program.

More questions?

Additional information about the summer institute and various other programs can be found on the CLEO website:

For Relevant TLS threads please see the following: